Delegate David Evans, R-Marshall, once enjoyed swerving his vehicle back and forth at fairs and parks that offered bumper cars rides, but he wishes his daily commutes along U.S. 250 were not as adventurous.
A combination of heavy truck traffic servicing the Marcellus and Utica shale industry and frigid temperatures over the winter have left roads main Marshall County roads - such as U.S. 250, W.Va. 86, W.Va. 88 and even W.Va. 2 - filled with cracks and holes. The condition of secondary roads such as Fork Ridge Road, Fish Creek Road, Benwood Hill Road and many others is even worse.
"Amusement parks used to have 'dodge'em' cars. We have 'dodge'em' potholes," Evans said. "There are too many oversized trucks out here beating up the roads. I see them travel in convoys of five. These roads were never designed to handle this kinds of traffic."
Photo by Casey Junkins/Roads throughout Marshall County, such as this stretch of W.Va. 86 between Glen Dale and Sherrard, continue deteriorating, partially due to increased truck traffic associated with the Marcellus and Utica shale industry.
There are days when Marshall County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel finds herself ducking in and out of potholes along W.Va. 86 between Glen Dale and Sherrard, so she understands Evans' complaint.
"I believe there should be a way to get more money back into Marshall County - and all of Division of Highways District 6 - for road repair. Our roads are deteriorating faster because of the gas industry," she said. "There are times when I travel (W.Va.) 86 three to four times a day. It is rough."
Drilling-related trucks driving throughout the Northern Panhandle include so-called "sand cans," which transport fracking sand to the gas well sites, frack water trucks, equipment trucks, and the lead "escort" vehicles that guide the oversized trucks down the road. Other trucks could be carrying equipment, water, sand, chemicals, propane, butane or various other materials.
"Even when the trucks are not overweight, it is the constant pounding that the roads take from multiple trucks that go one right after the other," Evans said. "A tremendous amount of road repair needs done."
"It would be nice to get more money to the counties of origin, which are feeling the full impact of the oil and gas industry," Evans said. "Cars and school buses are being damaged by these roads."
Dave Knuth, executive director of Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said there needs to be a way to get roads repaired.
"Starting in Charleston, there needs to a way to get some of that money back to Marshall County for roads. State government needs to recognize that we need help in our county because of the increase in traffic on state roads," he said.
Noting the billions of dollars natural gas processors are spending throughout the county, Knuth knows these companies are making profits. He wishes state officials would consider this when evaluating how to distribute funding for highway projects.
"They are going to make billions. I just wish we could get our roads fixed," Knuth added.
Brent Walker, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said the main problem right now is that officials with the Division of Highways have to wait for asphalt plants to open.
"We have been doing some cold patching where we can. This is the worst winter we have seen in decades," he said. "But our list is pretty long. We are putting the money and manpower into it."
Evans said he will continue telling legislators and administrators in Charleston that something needs to be done to ensure that roads are repaired in a timely manner when they are damaged by heavy truck traffic working in the oil and gas industry.
"It is something we have been dealing with for awhile, but it's even worse now. Something has to be done," he said.